Listen: I don't care how Petrino got to Arkansas. People can preach loyalty all they want, but with millions of dollars on the line, all loyalty lands you is a career that's beholden to the whims of others. Good coaches don't wait to get fired from dead-end positions. They jump ship while they have some semblance of credit left for leverage. Nobody wants to have to work their way back up the ladder in this business.
Derek Braunecker has everyone in a tizzy with his account of the Petrino hire, as related to “The Sports Animals,” Shawn Arnell and the DemGaz editor Wally Hall. Braunecker's story paints the new Razorback coach's hire in a much more sympathetic light than we've seen from the media thus far. Braunecker claims that Petrino and his agent, Russ Campbell, had the green light from Arthur Blank and the Falcons management prior to the sentencing of Michael Vick on dogfighting charges. Blank withdrew his blessing based on the advice of his public relations department.
According to Braunecker, Petrino's “pain threshold” was such that he was willing to take his chances on landing his dream job in the SEC. Turns out it needed to be. Blank and ESPN (possibly urged along by Blank and Home Depot's considerable sponsor contracts) piled on the bile. Nick Saban didn't have it half so bad, and his franchise quarterback was far from the state pen.
Whether Petrino had the green light from Blank or not, his leaving Atlanta was a decision he had to make. His offense had been gutted. His freshman season was in the gutter. A few years before, Blank had abruptly fired Dan Reeves with three games left in the season. Reeves' record at the time? 3-10 — the same record held by Petrino's Falcons at the time of the hire. How's that for loyalty? Petrino can't have felt much job security down there, especially with all the personnel issues that didn't involve pit bulls.
Petrino's here because he wants to coach in the best conference in the country. Every time he sought out offers while at Louisville, he was trying to find a back door into the SEC. The NFL may seem like a circuitous and hazy route from a distance, but as Braunecker's story hints, things get a lot clearer up close to the action.
Speaking of the Falcons, after dangling the possibility that Vick might play again for the team once the smoke has cleared, they've gone and dropped a hefty sum on their number three pick in the 2008 draft, Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, who signed for a six-year, $72 million dollar contract with $32.75 millie guaranteed. It doesn't sound like Vick's on their radar. I'm sure their public relations department would approve.
Former Hog Darren McFadden, the number four pick for the Oakland Raiders, signed his own dotted line this week. D-Mac pocketed $32 million guaranteed out of a six-year, $61 million dollar contract. Color me a homer, but I think it's a steal.